You Say “Boring,” I Say You Weren’t Watching

Sportswriters and broadcasters are fond of saying that the heavyweight division is exciting again, has been revitalized, reborn, is on fire.

Implied in this discussion (and sometimes a plainly spoken opinion) is that Wladimir Klitschko was boring, and thank God he finally retired.


I never thought so.

Over the decades the public has had very different reactions to intelligent, thoughtful fighters with a strong defense. Gentleman Jim Corbett was revered for his “scientific” style of jabbing and then dancing out of his opponent’s reach. Later, Jack Johnson was reviled for much the same technique. Ali did it to mixed reviews. Some thought he was the most talented ever; some said that he was not a “real” champion, because he didn’t “really” fight (meaning stand toe to toe).

In our times, Floyd Mayweather is hailed as a genius, while Klitschko is panned as dull.

From 2007–2011, Mayweather fought just one fight a year. Klitschko had nine fights in that span. Mayweather had zero knockouts the last five years of his career (ignoring the farce that was the McGregor fight). Klitschko had five knockouts the last five years of his career. Who’s boring?

Have you seen the left hook that leveled Kubrat Pulev? How about Ray Austin? It’s not a myth—Klitschko KO’d him in round 2 without ever having thrown his right hand. Could have had one hand tied behind his back. How about Calvin Brock? Derrick Jefferson? Chris Byrd?

Just stop there. Go look up those five fights on Youtube (no worry, I did the work for you above), then compare them to five fights by Floyd Mayweather. No disrespect to Mayweather, but I do not see how anyone could complain of Klitschko’s being boring while simultaneously admiring Mayweather. 

These were spectacular performances. Boring? Please.

“Well yeah, Klitschko had a lot of knockouts, but his style was boring.” Yeah, and predictable. He just kept winning; I hate that.

Tyson Fury leveled this charge at him during the build-up to their fight, then he beat Klitschko by devising and executing the most boring fight plan ever. 

My dad always said you gotta beat the title out of the champ. Fighting to stay upright, or fighting to a draw, or even an arguably close point win wouldn’t cut it. You either have to knock the champ out, or win the most rounds, and win them big, obviously and convincingly. They don’t give those belts away; you gotta beat it out of them.

Fury proved that wrong. He won by running away. I mean full credit for figuring out a winning strategy; no one else could do it. And by the rules of boxing, I guess he hit Wladimir more than Wladimir hit him . . . so, yeah. I guess. I think a different ref might have given them both warnings in the early going for not fighting, and maybe DQ-ing both of them after five or six rounds.

 “He was only “great” because he had no competition. The heavyweight division had a ten-year dearth of real talent.”

You sure? Povetkin and Pulev are numbers six and seven in the IBO rankings today. Klitschko beat both of those guys. I don’t think Samuel Peter was a marshmallow either. Or Tony Thompson, for that matter.

He beat 12 undefeated fighters in his career. That’s more than anybody else ever did. He successfully defended his titles 23 times. Could it be that he was just better than the rest?

As for boring, I know you all saw the Joshua fight. Boring? You think he woke up one day as a 41 year old and decided “I’m going to completely change my fighting style for this world title fight”? Please.

He had some boring fights, sure. His win against Ibragimov was a dull affair, as was his win over Povetkin, not to mention the aforementioned Fury bout. But have you watched Mike Tyson vs. James “Bonecrusher” Smith? Zzzz . . . zzzz . . . zzzz . . . .

Bigfoot Martin went ten rounds with George Foreman (*Yawn*).

Muhammed Ali had a number of lackluster bouts. Nobody ever said he was boring.

No, I reckon people didn’t like Klitschko because he did not fit the stereotypical heavyweight champion mold. First, he was white—the first white man to hold the title since Ingmar Johansen took it from Floyd Patterson in 1959. After Johansen there is an unbroken string of sixteen black American heavyweight champs from Patterson (who took it back from Johansen) till Lennox Lewis (who is British) broke it. 

Then along comes this foreigner, a white foreigner. A college-educated white foreigner who speaks four languages. A good-looking college-educated white foreigner who speaks four languages. And he was kicking ass.

And the search began for a great black hope just as they looked for a great white hope to take out Jack Johnson a century before. Calvin Brock, Ray Austin, Tony Thompson, Hasim Rahman, Eddie Chambers, Samuel Peter, David Haye, Jean-Mark Mormeck, and Bryant Jennings were all marched out and presented as “this is the one that will give Klitschko trouble; this is the one to take his crown.” And Klitschko beat them all. Seven of those nine by KO.

And he was never apologetic about it. He never said, “Sorry, I know I don’t belong here.” He looked like he felt right at home, and was having the time of his life.

I imagine some folks threw up their hands when it was another foreign white guy that finally took his titles. 

And Wilder came this close to beating Fury. I am stoked for that rematch.

But I guess no one has said that Fury is boring. Annoying maybe, but not boring.

And the New…

You felt it, didn’t you? Sunday morning when you woke up? The world was somehow . . . righter. It was as if the whole planet was spinning on its axis tilted one click closer to good and justice. The sun shone a little brighter, the birds sang a little merrier. Even my old frame seemed a little lighter.

Andy Ruiz was the heavyweight champ.


He did it by beating the “invincible” Anthony Joshua, and not by a controversial decision, bestowed by rogue, glue-sniffing judges, but by knockout, and not once, but twice.

That’s right. He knocked Joshua out the first time in the third round. He floored Joshua toward the end of the round, and while he got to his feet, he was not steady. The ref asked him to walk forward and he didn’t. It looked like didn’t understand the ref’s instructions.

The ref cut him some slack, you know, because he was the champ. He let him continue, having heard the ten-second knock, and the round ended without Joshua absorbing any more blows. If the positions were reversed, and it was Ruiz hanging onto the ropes with noodle-knees, the fight would have been halted, no doubt.

But that was okay. I understand. You don’t want to turn over the title in a potentially controversial manner. The commentators said that the ref “gave him a mulligan” in that round. Seems fair.

Then in the seventh round, Ruiz floored Joshua two more times, and this time the ref had no choice but to wave it off. The talking heads tried to stir up trouble, saying that Joshua was ready and willing to continue, that the ref stopped the fight too soon, but that was malarkey. After the count (and true, Joshua was standing), he asked “Are you okay?” but Joshua had spit out his mouthpiece and turned his back on Ruiz, walking to his corner. There, he leaned on the ropes, as if taking a break (not allowed in this sport). The ref asked him again if he wanted to box, to which he said “yes” while still leaning on the ropes.

Let’s be clear. Joshua was not cheating or expecting preferential treatment. He was addled, after the noggin knockin’ he got from Ruiz. The ref then gave him a couple more mulligans, letting him turn his back, ignoring the mouthpiece, etc., and Joshua didn’t even recognize it. He didn’t know where he was, or thought the round had ended. Like I said, the ref had no choice but to end it there.

So Andy Ruiz, who by fight time was an 11-1 underdog, won the title. Not as surprising perhaps as Tyson / Douglas, but still one for the ages. I’ll never forget it. Those of you who opted to go to Aunty Petunia’s quilting bee missed out. Big time. The bee will be there next week. These fights only happen once.

“So why is the sun shining brighter?” you ask. “I mean, Joshua’s a good guy, why celebrate his defeat?”

You misunderstand. There were no villains in the ring. But what Andy Ruiz did was to upset the whole corrupted apple cart. He was supposed to be the opponent, the lamb. He was supposed to get knocked out like Breazeale, to raise Joshua’s stock among American fans. That was the plan. I wrote about this recently, bemoaning the lack of a real title fight, like Wilder / Joshua or Fury / Joshua, and how Fury and Joshua were taking time off it seemed, fighting lesser men to boost their record and fatten their wallets.

But that’s not on the fighters. I believe if left to their own devices the top fighters would readily face each other. But there is this cadre of promoters and sanctioning bodies and venues and TV networks, etc. steering the whole thing. They’ve got a big pie to slice up, and they aim to make it bigger, not necessarily better. They rule without scrutiny, turning screws and pushing buttons, moving men like game tokens, running a lucrative business in the name of sport. And their shadowy presence in the world of boxing is as parasitic and intractable as a tapeworm.

It was this body that made Pacquiao / Mayweather five years late, when it was no longer relevant or even very credible. It was this same body that decided that Fury would fight Tom Schwarz and Joshua Jarell Miller. When Miller crapped out, they picked Ruiz.

Remember when Don King tried to get the result of Tyson / Douglas reversed?

No, sportsmanship and fairness are merely sizzle to these guys. They sell the sizzle and keep the steak.

Well, Ruiz didn’t read the script they gave him, and substituted his own. He turned the boxing world on its head like others have done before him. Men like Braddock, Clay, and Douglas. Rarefied air, and the fact that he is breathing it makes me smile.

And I readily admit that I had little hope for him. I too made jokes about his paunch, his “dad-bod.” But there have always been heavyweights that were overweight. Buster Mathis fought both Frazier and Ali with boobs. Buster Mathis, Jr., and the aptly named Tony Tubbs fought Mike Tyson. Hell, Eric “Butterbean” Esch fought and won weighing as much as 400 lbs. You saw the layer of insulation on Dominic Breazeale two weeks ago. George Foreman in his comeback had a spare tire. Even Buster Douglas had a little upholstery on him. But not like Ruiz. They talk about him being the first Mexican heavyweight titleist; well he’s also the first fat one.

Ruiz has a ritual – he eats a Snickers bar right before he enters the ring. “It gives me energy,” he says. He’s not trying to lose weight and failing, he’s just trying to knock your head off and have fun while he’s doing it. If you watch the slow-motion replays of the highlights from Saturday, you’ll see a real athlete working. Between those rapid-fire punches, he’s shifting and stepping and leaning and all to make each blow land as hard as possible. You can miss it in real time because it’s so fast.

The beast, meanwhile, is squirming and turning and will (of course) make for itself a bigger payday, whether that means making a rematch, or having Ruiz fight a succession of dead men. Time will tell.

In two weeks is the Fury / Schwarz fight, which I’ve already referred to as a “debacle.”

Now I wonder . . . .